Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who also leads Biju Janata Dal, themost successful regional party in the history of the state, is doinge verything possible to ensure a massive victory for his party in 2024.The victory will also help him achieve a personal landmark by becoming the longest serving chief minister of the country. No wonder he isdealing sternly with troublesome opponents while taking all possible steps to improve the lot of women, youth and farmers, his core vote-bank, in the state.
The expulsion of media baron and Khandapada MLA SoumyaRanjan Patnaik from Biju Janata Dal (BJD) hogged the headlines duringthe last fortnight. So much so that the news about the election ofPramila Mallik as the first woman speaker of Odisha assembly did notget the kind of attention it deserved.
This is because Soumya happens to be a high-profile politician and theowner of a powerful media conglomerate and, thus, capable of harmingthe ruling party at the time of elections. However, there is nodenying the significance of Pramila’s election to the post of assemblyspeaker even from a political point of view. This can very well bedescribed as a master-stroke of chief minister Naveen Patnaik ahead ofthe general elections barely eight months away.
In fact, Patnaik has been ticking all the right boxes as he preparesfor the 2024 battle. He has not only given Odisha assembly its firstwomen speaker but also released timely financial assistance to farmersof the state under the KALIA scheme. Women, youth and farmers havebeen the most faithful voters of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the partywhich has been ruling Odisha uninterrupted for the last 23 years. Thechief minister, who continues to be BJD’s lucky poll mascot, hastaken due care to ensure that aspirations of almost every segment ofvoters are fulfilled. He knows that is the best way of keeping themhappy.
The rise of woman power under Patnaik has been phenomenal. While heenhanced the reservation for them in panchayati raj institutions to 50percent from earlier 33 after coming to power, he has now given Odishaits first woman speaker. Incidentally the capital city of Bhubaneswaralso got its first female mayor in the past urban elections which wasswept by BJD.
Even more importantly Patnaik has diversified the income generatingactivities of women self-help groups (WSHGs) being guided and assistedby Mission Shakti which is now a full-fledged department being led byits dynamic commissioner-cum-secretary Sujata Karthikeyan. Women fromordinary backgrounds are now coming out of their homes in increasingnumbers and contributing to the economic development of the state. Inthe process, they have also become financially independent. MissionShakti has given them both power and dignity.
Patnaik’s campaign at the national level for 33 percent reservationfor women in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies has also drawn theattention of top political leaders of the country. He is being seen asa path-breaker in this area. No wonder women have been votingfaithfully for his party.
Farmers have also been loyal to the BJD, the most successful regionalparty in the history of the state. This is because the chief ministerhas not only been sensitive to their needs but also extremely generousin providing financial assistance to them under the Krushak Assistancefor Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme which has beenhailed as unique by top-rate economists of the country.
The BJD government recently disbursed financial assistance to the tuneof Rs 900 crore to over 45 lakh farmers under the scheme on theoccasion of Nuakhai which is the most important harvesting festival ofthe state. It happens to be the biggest festival of western Odisha.
As many as 44.56 lakh KALIA beneficiaries were paid Rs 2,000 eachunder the scheme on the occasion of Nuakhai. Chief minister NaveenPatnaik disbursed the money at a function through video-conferencing.The money was deposited in the bank accounts of the beneficiariesincluding 43,88,000 small and marginal and 68,750 landless farmers.KALIA is a unique scheme which also takes care of landless farmers andfarm labourers.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister said that he wanted everyfarmer to lead a life of respect and dignity by participating in thedevelopment of the state. He informed that so far, the state governmenthas paid Rs. 12,500 crores to the farmers under the KALIA scheme. Thestate government is also providing scholarships to children of KALIAbeneficiaries as an assistance for higher studies.
The chief minister is keen to ensure that children of farmers getproper education and work as doctors and engineers and bring glory notonly to their families but also the state. He said the government hasimplemented several schemes for the welfare of farmers and is alsopaying premiums for crop insurance. More than 22 lakh farmers havealready registered for crop insurance this year.
Besides, the government is providing financial assistance to small andlandless farmers to purchase seed, fertilizers, insecticides and farmequipment. The government has ensured that farmers no more depend onprivate financial companies and money lenders for their requirements.
Most political observers agree that Patnaik has been extremelygenerous in meeting the requirements of the poor and deprived sectionsof the state’s population. “He is running a welfare state in the truesense of the term. People consider him to be their messiah. No wonderhe keeps winning,” said a political analyst.
Patnaik has been keen to uplift the people at the bottom of the socialladder right from the beginning. Soon after coming to power helaunched a slew of schemes aimed at reducing poverty levels in thestate. Today some of his poverty alleviation schemes like rice for Rs.1 per kg and meals in urban areas to the poor for just Rs. 5 arecounted among the best in the country.
The truth is his government takes care of the people right from thecradle to the grave. While Mamata scheme is meant to help expectingmothers there are also schemes to ensure proper nutrition forchildren. The government even takes care of the last rites of the poorwho don’t have money to organize a proper funeral. Such people aretaken care of under the Harishchandra Yojana of the government.
In his fifth term the chief minister is paying particular attention tomake the government more transparent and effective and also to bridgethe gap between the rulers and the ruled. This is being done throughPattnaik’s 5T formula under which transformative programmes like MoSarkar have been launched. Such initiatives are being personallysupervised by chief minister secretary VK Pandian whose dynamism andefficiency have never been in doubt.
Though Patnaik’s popularity seems to be at its peak he refuses to becomplacent. He is busy strengthening the BJD organization andpreparing for the general elections which, going by presentindications, he seems certain to win. This victory, when it comes,will be special for him as it would make him the longest serving chiefminister of the country, a record never held by an Odia. So, the BJD ispulling out all stops to ensure that the party registers a massive winin 2024. The victory will also impact national politics in the sensethat it will further strengthen Patnaik’s political clout at thenational level and no political formation in the country will be ableto ignore him.